Retired Shoe Designer Bonnie Smith Finds New Career in Cars

  • Bonnie.Goetz

Bonnie (Goetz) Smith '62 is a “shoe-in” for miles traveled.

For 30 years Smith, a Moore alumna, was a designer of fashion forward women’s shoes for American companies in 10 different countries.

“My shoes have been in virtually every department and specialty store in America,” she said.

As this profession requires constant travel over great distances – Monday in Hong Kong, Tuesday and Wednesday in Taiwan, Thursday and Friday in Indonesia, then off to China on Monday – Smith decided about 16 years ago to make a career change.

Today, she is a sales professional at Land Rover Thousand Oaks in Santa Paula, California, where she lives. She has always had a love of cars – her father restored antique ones – and he bought her a Porsche at age 18. She met her then-husband, the editor of Car and Driver magazine, while drag racing against him at a Porsche club event.

“I know all about cars,” she said. “I could take my Porsche apart and put it back together again. I happened to hear about the Land Rover opening – I love Land Rovers – and I thought 'why not?' I know sales. I know cars. And I meet all kinds of interesting people.”

Smith still gives back for her decades of shoe design experience – teaching for the past 12 years in the Applied Footwear Design program at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

“Wearing two hats professionally keeps me alert,” she said. “It’s the only program in the country that teaches you how to be a shoe designer. We graduate people who are ready to go into the industry and keep their jobs.”

After graduating from Moore with a Fine Arts degree in oil painting, Smith’s first job was teaching art in the Philadelphia School System. She also had a side job painting portraits on commission. After a year she moved to New York and joined a catalog company, where she did a combination of art direction and copy writing for their shoe division. She subsequently was introduced to a shoe designer and became her assistant, then a year later was asked to design the shoe line for Margaret Jerrold.

“She was the most famous shoe designer in America at the time and she became ill and I took her place,” Smith said. “So that’s how I spent the next 30 years, designing for various companies.”

She credits her education at Moore for preparing her for an unorthodox career trajectory.

“My experience at Moore gave me an amazing foundation for which to do anything,” she said. “I could pull all sorts of skills out of my hat from my education, whether it was typography or color theory or an English class. I would tell students to concentrate on any class you’re taking. You never know which class you’ll have to pull out of a hat to get a job and be good at it.”


Published on June 7th, 2013